In our family, we typically start Sundays slowly, waking up late and brunching before tuning into church online. But today we flew out the door while I was still chewing my bacon, because IT WAS VALLEYFAIR DAY, at long last!
After spending the whole week watching the weather awaiting the perfect day to take Lola and her friend to the amusement park (and then despairing when we bought tickets for Thursday, only to have it storm with no rainchecks or refunds), we could barely contain our excitement for a full day of blue skies, wild rides, and a lot of junk food.
Seriously, that part of the day is a big draw for me; I don’t love all rides, but I do love Cinnabon.
We went hard. On the rides and also a bucket of fries the size of my head. Corn dogs and pretzels with Diet Cokes, then Dip n Dots? Sure. Bulk candy and also overpriced matching bracelets from the gift shop? Go nuts – it’s summer! And ValleyFair feels like the last hurrah.
Toward the end when Lola and her friend had just a half hour left, the girls calculated how many rides they could cram in before the park closed. They’d saved the best for last – The Wild Thing – mainly because Lola’s friend wasn’t sure she could handle it. But she loved it, and after their first go-round they found there weren’t many people waiting in line, so they went again. And again. And then again. Lola and her friend ran from the exit to the entrance three times after the first time for a total of four rides on the rollercoaster that sent me hurling mini donuts off of the side in 2019 (yes, really).
I laughed so hard at the sight of these two almost-eighth graders running faster than either of them had *ever* run the mile in school, chasing down just one more ride.
“We kept telling ourselves, this could be our last ride. We have to savor it. This could be it,” Lola’s sweet friend told me later on the walk back to our car.
My heart skipped a beat when she said that last part, because unbeknownst to this thirteen year old prophetess, she’d just declared a truth to me:
This could be it.
Four little words that catch in my throat when I say them out loud. And of course, because I take everything too deep, I wondered:
How many rides do any of us have left in the amusement park of life? (Wow, this got dark!) But if you’re reading this, that means you lived through 2020 (and at least half of 2021 – go you!) which means you must acutely understand: nothing is guaranteed. This really could be it.
And how many of us are just plain living at breakneck speed as if we’ll be on this ride forever when, in reality, this could be it? (Guilty!)
How many times have I spoken idle words or waited to say the hard thing, as if I have the rest of my life to speak the words that matter when actually this could be it?
How many fights have never been resolved by two people who love each other but forgot amidst the tension that this could be it?
I have twelve gorgeous sunset-pink and yellow roses in my bedroom right now, penance from a marital spat Christian felt like making up for, big time. He appeared to me yesterday after we’d exchanged words, producing a chocolate bar and the flowers as a peace offering, because I married a man who knows this could be it.
We made up. Went to church on a Saturday night, the Lutheran one where my parents work and where the sanctuary is in the trees. The text was Mark 7, a favorite, and as the pastor talked about disciples with dirty hands, unglamorous lives and ordinary callings, average people following Jesus, he mentioned a way we bring the kingdom of heaven to earth here and now:
By slowing down, like Jesus did.
The text chronicles so many of Jesus’ miracles, performed as he walked throughout the world. Truly – when you read what Jesus was able to cram into his three years of ministry (it was A LOT), you’d expect him to be running from place to place, fast and furiously going about his Father’s work (like Lola and her friend running back in line for the Wild Thing!). But no, the guy walked. I can’t find a time when he ran. And he wasn’t in a hurried state of mind, either – instead, he was available when he encountered people on his way who needed healing. He took time.
Jesus modeled in perfection how to companion others at the speed of love, as the pastor this weekend stated beautifully — and this is impossible to do when we are fixated on our own agendas and outcomes.
It’s possible when we remember our mortality, that this could be it, and trust that the details of our lives will be taken care of — if only we’ll take the time to love others where they’re at on our way.
This week I’m praying God would help me slow down enough to see who I need to companion like Jesus, at the speed of love, because this could be it.
37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”